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  1. Abstract

    Humans have profoundly impacted the distribution of plant and animal species over thousands of years. The most direct example of these effects is human‐mediated movement of individuals, either through translocation of individuals within their range or through the introduction of species to new habitats. While human involvement may be suspected in species with obvious range disjunctions, it can be difficult to detect natural versus human‐mediated dispersal events for populations at the edge of a species' range, and this uncertainty muddles how we understand the evolutionary history of populations and broad biogeographical patterns. Studies combining genetic data with archaeological, linguistic and historical evidence have confirmed prehistoric examples of human‐mediated dispersal; however, it is unclear whether these methods can disentangle recent dispersal events, such as species translocated by European colonizers during the past 500 years. We use genomic DNA from historical museum specimens and historical records to evaluate three hypotheses regarding the timing and origin of Northern Bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) in Cuba, whose status as an endemic or introduced population has long been debated. We discovered that bobwhites from southern Mexico arrived in Cuba between the 12th and 16th centuries, followed by the subsequent introduction of bobwhites from the southeastern USA to Cuba between the 18th and 20th centuries. These dates suggest the introduction of bobwhites to Cuba was human‐mediated and concomitant with Spanish colonial shipping routes between Veracruz, Mexico and Havana, Cuba during this period. Our results identify endemic Cuban bobwhites as a genetically distinct population born of hybridization between divergent, introduced lineages.

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  2. Abstract

    The Great American Biotic Interchange (GABI) was a key biogeographic event in the history of the Americas. The rising of the Panamanian land bridge ended the isolation of South America and ushered in a period of dispersal, mass extinction, and new community assemblages, which sparked competition, adaptation, and speciation. Diversification across many bird groups, and the elevational zonation of others, ties back to events triggered by the GABI. But the exact timing of these events is still being revealed, with recent studies suggesting a much earlier time window for faunal exchange, perhaps as early as 20 million years ago (Mya). Using a time‐calibrated phylogenetic tree, we show that the jay genusCyanolycais emblematic of bird dispersal trends, with an early, pre‐land bridge dispersal from Mesoamerica to South America 6.3–7.3 Mya, followed by a back‐colonization ofC. cucullatato Mesoamerica 2.3–4.8 Mya, likely after the land bridge was complete. AsCyanolycaspecies came into contact in Mesoamerica, they avoided competition due to a prior shift to lower elevation in the ancestor ofC. cucullata. This shift allowedC. cucullatato integrate itself into the Mesoamerican highland avifauna, which our time‐calibrated phylogeny suggests was already populated by higher‐elevation, congeneric dwarf‐jays (C. argentigula,C. pumilo,C. mirabilis, andC. nanus). The outcome of these events and fortuitous elevational zonation was thatC. cucullatacould continue colonizing new highland areas farther north during the Pleistocene. Resultingly, fourC. cucullatalineages became isolated in allopatric, highland regions from Panama to Mexico, diverging in genetics, morphology, plumage, and vocalizations. At least two of these lineages are best described as species (C. mitrataandC. cucullata). Continued study will further document the influence of the GABI and help clarify how dispersal and vicariance shaped modern‐day species assemblages in the Americas.

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  3. Abstract Tropical mountains feature marked species turnover along elevational gradients and across complex topography, resulting in great concentrations of avian biodiversity. In these landscapes, particularly among morphologically conserved and difficult to observe avian groups, species limits still require clarification. One such lineage is Scytalopus tapaculos, which are among the morphologically most conserved birds. Attention to their distinctive vocal repertoires and phylogenetic relationships has resulted in a proliferation of newly identified species, many of which are restricted range endemics. Here, we present a revised taxonomy and identify species limits among high-elevation populations of Scytalopus tapaculos inhabiting the Peruvian Andes. We employ an integrated framework using a combination of vocal information, mitochondrial DNA sequences, and appearance, gathered from our own fieldwork over the past 40 yr and supplemented with community-shared birdsong archives and museum specimens. We describe 3 new species endemic to Peru. Within all 3 of these species there is genetic differentiation, which in 2 species is mirrored by subtle geographic plumage and vocal variation. In a fourth species, Scytalopus schulenbergi, we document deep genetic divergence and plumage differences despite overall vocal similarity. We further propose that an extralimital taxon, Scytalopus opacus androstictus, be elevated to species rank, based on a diagnostic vocal character. Our results demonstrate that basic exploration and descriptive work using diverse data sources continues to identify new species of birds, particularly in tropical environs. 
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  4. Abstract

    The typical owl family (Strigidae) comprises 194 species in 28 genera, 14 of which are monotypic. Relationships within and among genera in the typical owls have been challenging to discern because mitochondrial data have produced equivocal results and because many monotypic genera have been omitted from previous molecular analyses. Here, we collected and analyzed DNA sequences of ultraconserved elements (UCEs) from 43 species of typical owls to produce concatenated and multispecies coalescent-based phylogenetic hypotheses for all but one genus in the typical owl family. Our results reveal extensive paraphyly of taxonomic groups across phylogenies inferred using different analytical approaches and suggest the genera Athene, Otus, Asio, Megascops, Bubo, and Strix are paraphyletic, whereas Ninox and Glaucidium are polyphyletic. Secondary analyses of protein-coding mitochondrial genes harvested from off-target sequencing reads and mitochondrial genomes downloaded from GenBank generally support the extent of paraphyly we observe, although some disagreements exist at higher taxonomic levels between our nuclear and mitochondrial phylogenetic hypotheses. Overall, our results demonstrate the importance of taxon sampling for understanding and describing evolutionary relationships in this group, as well as the need for additional sampling, study, and taxonomic revision of typical owl species. Additionally, our findings highlight how both divergence and convergence in morphological characters have obscured our understanding of the evolutionary history of typical owls, particularly those with insular distributions.

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